Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

First pieces of debris from Air France plane plucked from the sea

A helicopter has recovered the first wreckage from doomed Air France Flight 447, Brazil’s air force has revealed.

A structural support piece of the jet, about 8ft (2.5m) long, was pulled from the Atlantic Ocean 340 miles (550km) north-east of the Fernando de Noronha islands, off Brazil’s northern coast.

Two buoys were also found but no bodies or human remains have been spotted. Ulster woman Dr Eithne Walls from Co Down was among the 228 victims.

The helicopter was working off one of the navy ships which arrived overnight at one of the crash debris fields. The air force released the information in a statement on its website.

Meanwhile, the French agency investigating the crash said automatic messages received from the plane have failed to show exactly how fast the aircraft was flying.

The Accident Investigation Agency said only two findings have been established. One is that the series of automatic messages sent from Flight 447 were “incoherent” regarding the plane’s speed. The other is that the plane’s route on Sunday night was spotted with stormy weather.

The agency warned against any “hasty interpretation or speculation” about the crash.

The French newspaper Le Monde had reported, without naming sources, that the Air France plane was flying at the wrong speed.

Air France Flight 447 left Rio de Janeiro for Paris on Sunday night, but disappeared over the Atlantic.

Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon told family members at a private meeting that the Airbus A330 disintegrated, either in the air or when it slammed into the ocean, and there were no survivors, according to Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc, a grief counsellor who was asked by Paris prosecutors to help counsel relatives.

With the crucial black box voice and data recorders still missing, investigators were relying heavily on the plane’s automated messages to help reconstruct what happened as the jet flew through towering thunderstorms.

Seas were calm yesterday with periodic rain as ships converged on three debris sites to recover wreckage.

The Pourquoi Pas, a French sea research vessel carrying submarines, is heading from the Azores and will be in the search zone by June 12.

The equipment includes the Nautile, a mini-sub used to explore the wreckage of the Titanic, according to French marine institute Ifremer.

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